“Joseph Cowen, Newcastle upon Tyne,” by John Tweed

Tweed’s bronze sculpture on a granite pedestal is situated on Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. According to Pevsner et al., Cowen, whom this "fine" statue commemorates, was a "newspaper proprietor, social reformer, friend of Italian freedom, founder of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House" (479).

What the statue catches so well is not only Cowen's likeness (see the photograph in Rae and Biagini), but also his vehemence. This controversial politician and journalist promoted revolution and independence both at home and abroad. At home, for example, he was an early supporter of Irish Home Rule; "sympathized with the Chartists and strenuously laboured on their behalf" (Rae and Biagini) — and was a highly rhetorical speaker. His "eloquent speech" is mentioned” by Gladstone in his own eloquent speech in support of Irish Home Rule on 7 June 1886.

Cowen was so badly crushed at a public meeting in 1880 that he never completely recovered from it. Strangely, this statue is not mentioned among Cowen's likenesses in the ODNB article on him; but it is good that one of Newcastle's most energetic and forthright MPs should be remembered in this way.

Photograph and text Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Pevsner, Nikolaus, et. al. The Buildings of England: Northumberland. 2nd (revised) ed. London: Penguin, 1992 (note however that the sculptor's name is wrongly given as "Tweedy").

Rae, W. F., rev. Eugenio F. Biagini. "Cowen, Joseph (1829-1900)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 11 August 2011.

"Tweed, John (d. 1933), Sculptor" (National Register of Archives site). Viewed 11 August 2011.

Last modified 20 November 2011